The Royals lost to the Cleveland Indians 2-1 on Tuesday night and if you want to blame Joakim Soria, go right ahead; no one can stop you.
But don’t forget who started the fire Soria couldn’t put out.
Brian Flynn started the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied 1-1, but walked the first batter he saw; Jose Ramirez. Leadoff walks hurt because they give the other team a base runner while they still have all three outs to move that runner around the bases. The Indians chose to use one of those outs to bunt the winning run into scoring position.
Pinch hitter Coco Crisp laid the bunt down, but Flynn couldn’t pick it up. Ramirez was on second, Crisp was on first and the Indians had yet to swing a bat.
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Three batters and two outs later the game was still tied when Joakim Soria made a bad 1-2 pitch to Brandon Guyer — a hittable fastball up and out over the plate — but remember who got things started. Losing this one was a team effort.
(P.S. Give some credit to Flynn for taking responsibility; he said he “hand-wrapped” the win for the Indians.)
Why not use Wade Davis?
I’ve explained this before, but it couldn’t hurt to explain it again; this is not a case of manager Ned Yost being stubborn, this is how just about every manager in the big leagues uses their closer.
They don’t use their closers in tie games on the road.
Let’s say you use your closer to get through the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game; who’s pitching the bottom of the 10th? Someone you didn’t want pitching in the ninth.
So if that non-closer is going to cough it up, you want him to do it before you burn your closer. Burn your closer in a loss on Tuesday and if you need him to throw on Wednesday, the closer won’t be available on Thursday. Ask your closer to throw the bottom of the ninth and the bottom of the 10th and you probably lose him for a couple of days.
At home the math is different: if your closer gets you through the top of the ninth there’s a chance nobody has to pitch the 10th. And if your team doesn’t score in the bottom of the ninth at least you get another chance in the bottom of the 10th.
Closers only have so many innings in their arms, so managers want to use them when those innings do the most good and most managers think that’s with a lead on the road and a lead or a tie at home.
How about the Royals offense?
On Tuesday against the Indians, the Royals had six hits and only managed to score one run; yet another poor performance from the Royals anemic offense, right? Well, on Monday that same anemic offense had 12 hits and scored eight runs off the White Sox.
On Monday against the White Sox, the Royals put 14 balls in play when they got a fastball in a count where a fastball was the percentage pitch; in other words, the Royals got the fastball they were looking for. When the Royals got the fastball they were looking for they were 6 for 14 with three homers and a double.
On Tuesday against the Indians, the Royals put one ball in play when they got a fastball in a count where the fastball was the percentage pitch and that ball was popped up. When he found himself in a fastball count, Cleveland pitcher Josh Tomlin threw something other than a straight fastball and that kept the Royals off-balance.
Bottom line: the White Sox threw fastballs when the Royals expected fastballs, the Indians didn’t.
What to watch for in Wednesday’s game
On Wednesday night, the Royals will face Corey Kluber and he’s 17-9 with an ERA of 3.12.
If you want to understand what you’re seeing, pay attention to how often Kluber finds himself in a fastball count (2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1 although 0-0 and 1-0 fastballs are pretty common as well); then pay attention to what Kluber throws in those counts.
If the Royals get fastballs in fastball counts, they should do OK; if they don’t, you might see a repeat of Tuesday night.